Monday, August 16, 2010

Libraries, the RWA National conference and me -- Michelle Styles

Cara Summer and Michelle Styles photo by Malle Vallik
My head is still spinning from the RWA National conference which finished just over  two weeks ago. I really enjoyed going. The venue was excellent, the people great and the chance to learn about what was happening in the industry fantastic.  All I can say is that going to the RWA National made a believer out of me and I intend to go to the one in NYC.
Much has been written about the literacy signing which has to be seen. I did meet Kandy Shepard who also is a gregular blogger on Totebags and sat next Cara Summers who is indeed lovely and charming. But one of my favourite things happened earlier that day -- the librarians lunch follow by the meet and greet with librarians and  booksellers.
Now, I love libraries. Libraries have always been important to me. The one where I grew up with its top floor dedicated to children's books and the ground floor where the adults books were and where one fine day when I was about 12, I decided I was old enough to brave. I discovered the Harlequin section and haven't looked back. Then there was the library less than a half block from my great aunt's house in St Paul Minnesota where every time we visited, I was allowed to go and check out books. And my high school library which was in the old library of the Uplands mansion and had hidden panels that I discovered one lunchtime. My university library where I worked first in the checkout and then, joy of joys in acquisitions where I was able to catalogue new books.  And finally, there is the Lit and Phil which is one of the last subscription libraries in England where  the lower room is reputed to be haunted and the reading room dates from 1824.
I also have a great respect for librarians as they are the gatekeepers of a lot of knowledge.
Unfortunately public libraries are under threat both in the UK and in the US because they are a soft option for cutting when budgets are tight. However, it is in times like these that we need libraries more than ever. And as people kept saying at the conference, no one has yet figured out how to do a browsing application for online bookstores.
So despite the temptation of Disney World, I looked forward to going to the lunch. There, I sat next to Gail Link who won the RWA bookseller of the year (couldn't have happened to a nicer person!) and her friend Linda who runs a reading group for Las Vegas libraries. There were several other librarians and two other authors --Carrie Lofty and Jacquie D'Alessandro. Sherrilyn Kenyon spoke about her library experience and why libraries were important to her.
Among other things, her university library had the textbooks she needed and couldn't afford. And like me, she was also a library volunteer in her youth. Although unlike me, it seems she keeps her books in rather better order. I may have a good collection of books but they are not catalogued or shelved in any order.
After the lunch, Sherrilyn stayed and signed every book.
The meet and greet was also fun as first I watched the hordes of librarians strip the goodie room bare and then I was able to meet various librarians and booksellers, including the lady who runs B&L Books in Altamonte Springs Fl whose husband's family hails from the same town where my husband grew up. It is a small world. But we were all brought together by a love of books.
So while the temptation to sight see was great, I was glad that I took the time to celebrate libraries and librarians.
Writing Contests/Opportunities for Aspiring Harlequin Authors
I wanted to highlight two things.
1. Fasttracking for Medical Romance. The Medical Slush pile was low and they do need authors so until the 24 August, HMB are fasttracking all MEDICAL submissions. See eharlequin for more information.

2. The New Voices Contest -- Harlequin Mills and Boon are looking to find a new author for ONE of their lines. And by New Author they do mean an unagented and unpublished author, a reader of Harlequin Mills and Boon who finally gets up the courage to enter. There is a public participation element to the contest which starts on 6 September as once the finalists are chosen, the public will be able to vote. The winner of the contest will see thier book published.  You can find out more on the New Voices website. One of the things that HMB authors are doing to support the contest is to hold Masterclasses. KateWalker is holding on 26 August at Doncaster Library 10 -12 pm, and I'm doing 2 -- one at Knareborough Library on 1 September 7- 9 pm and one at Haltwhistle Library Saturday 18 September  10:30 - 11:30 am. For those who can't get to a workshop, there is going to be loads of help on the New Voices website.

Michelle Styles writes for Harlequin Historical Romance. To learn more about Michelle  and her books visit her website.


Donna Alward said...

That is a lovely photo btw! And I missed the event last year as I had another luncheon, but I'm thinking next year it's going to be a must attend....

Michelle Styles said...

You should go, Donna. It was a blast. I loved the chance to speak with librarians and learn what they were doing. There is something about being in a room full of people who love books.

And didn't Malle take a great photo?
I was slightly disappointed that Anne Stuart was signing with the Big Names as I was looking forward to envying her her line. She was also in motorised wheelchair...

runner10 said...

Great pic. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.
I love my library. They are so helpful and will try to get any book I want from another library.

Caroline said...

Lovely photo! I think your grin sums it up - a great time had by all! Caroline x

Michelle Styles said...

Runner10 -- libraries are there to be loved! And interlibrary loan is the stuff dreams are made of!

Caroline -- glad you liked the photo.

Christina Hollis said...

Great photo, Michelle, and you've almost persuaded me (terrified of flying) to go next year.
Our local library has had a makeover, just in time for the school holidays. It's now a beautiful place, but with FAR fewer books. There's an internet cafe on site, though!

practimom said...

oh what a wonderful time you had! great photo!